Policy Tracker – Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in April 2016

The main talking point this month has been the problems bubbling around the DfE over its accounts, academy plans and primary assessment arrangements.

There have also been some significant reports on school performance, mental health, GCSEs, young people and skills and graduate earnings, among others.

Key headlines from the month

  • Reception assessments. Put on hold following issues raised in comparability studies
  • Phonics. New research finds it can help disadvantaged children in early stages
  • KS1 tests. Grammar test pulled after online leak 
  • Primary places. Concerns about regional variation as places for 2016 announced
  • National Reference Test. Statutory Order published
  • Languages. Still proving challenging according to latest survey
  • EBacc. Petition to include creative subjects tops 100,000 signatures
  • GCSE grading. Ofqual consults on higher grades and application to remaining GCSEs
  • Qualification regulation. Ofqual highlights 3 goals in its latest Corporate Plan
  • White Paper. Opposition MPs lead Westminster debate
  • School funding. Institute for Fiscal Studies indicates 7% cut in per pupil spending by 2019/20
  • School leadership. Plans emerge for a new Institute at the University of Bucks
  • Regional Schools Commissioners. Further clarification on roles and KPIs promised
  • 16-19 Study Programmes. Education Funding Agency reports on 2013/14 delivery patterns
  • 2018 performance tables. Listing of recognized professional and technical qualifications published
  • Apprenticeship levy. Latest guidance issued
  • Degree Apprenticeships. HEFCE given the task of managing the new Development Fund
  • FE. Guidance issued on transition grants to support post area review re-structuring
  • Teacher training applications. UCAS reports drop of 6.5% in current applications
  • Oxford. Lady Margaret Hall announces new Foundation Year pilot scheme
  • Graduates. Important new data on earnings potential and issues published by IFS
  • Students. Ministers write to universities and colleges encouraging students to vote.

Reports/Publications of the month (in order of publication)

Speeches of the month

Quotes of the month

  • “It is not the case that every academy performs better than every LA school; but the academy system makes it easier to put in place those factors of better teaching, leadership, curriculums and accountability that incontrovertibly drive up standards” – the DfE fact sheet on academies
  • “A young person considering their options for further education or employment is presented with gobbledygook” – The Chair of the Lords Committee on her report on young people
  • “The basic structure of the UK education system dates from the mid-19th century and has changed little since” – the Institute of Directors bridles at an education system that has failed to adapt
  • “The government’s approach to English devolution still has an air of charting undiscovered territory” – The National Audit Offices runs the runes over the government’s devolution policy
  • “The median waiting time for all providers was one month for a first appointment and two months until start of treatment” – The think tank Centre Forum highlights how long young people with mental health issues have to wait to be seen
  • “It is hard to avoid saying ‘we told you so’” – head teachers react to the dropping of reception baseline assessments
  • “Clearly a regrettable incident” – The Schools Minister on the leaking of the KS1 test paper.

Word or phrase of the month

Adverse opinion’ – what the DfE faced over its accounting reports and other policies this month.

Steve Besley
Head of Policy

Policy Watches are intended to help colleagues keep up to date with national developments. Information is correct at the time of writing and is offered in good faith. No liability is accepted for decisions made on the basis of information given.